Race and the Digital: Racial Formation and 21st Century Technologies


The following analysis focuses on the DREAMer social movement, named after activist efforts that gave birth to the D.R.E.A.M. Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), and its use of new media engagement. Effectively, the DREAMER population is a sub-group that is part of the larger undocumented immigrant rights movement in the Untied States. They are also the most successful portion of this movement, given that a comprehensive immigration reform has not been able become a legislative reality, but a deportation relief for DREAMERS has. Therefore, a question arises: why has the DREAMER movement been able to produce policy changes and the larger movement has not?
When analyzing the larger immigration reform movement from a policy perspective, we can turn to the Kingdon Model of Policy Making (Kingdon 1984). This model functions under the premise that national, state, and local agendas are only able to address a couple of issues at a given time. Therefore, a particular issue will only become a priority when certain things happen parallel to each other:

  1. PROBLEM: There is a problem; it must be clear, visible, and compelling with a sense of urgency.
  2. PROPOSAL: There is a defined, articulate, answer-solution proposal with analysis, data, facts, and evidence. It should demonstrate that the problem can be solved if congress is ready to act and there is support of citizens.
  3. POLITICS: There is political support; this can come in a variety of formats, but usually through: votes, having the right people in the right places, having sufficient funds (e.g. media influence- to get on a vote ballot), a spokesperson, etc.
Comprehensive immigration reform has its biggest weakness in the politics stream of the model because the public narrative that surrounds them is a criminalizing one (law-breaking, illegal border crossing. Shasha Constanza-Chock defines the public narrative as, "a story about a social movement that is intended for public consumption and has specific public goals: to build a shared identity among movement participants, draw in sympathizers, and generate new allies" (Chock 2014). For the adult undocumented immigrant, the political discourse that surrounds them comes from decades of a narrative that has been assigned to them by the elites of the country. This discourse has shifted throughout time according to the circumstances of the time (like the need for low-wage labor) and the particular group in question (e.g. Chinese or Mexican). Interestingly enough, the DREAMer movement has been able to garner political support through their own reshaping of the public narrative that surrounds them. There are several through key elements that distinguish it from the larger immigrant rights movement, most notably, has been their use of new media engagement.  

There is many existing literature on the specific ways that DREAMers have engaged in the use of new media, therefore, this analysis does not aim to reiterate this. Rather, this analysis focuses on how, through the use of new media, the DREAMer movement was able to reshape their narrative which influenced public opinion and exerted the political pressure that gave birth to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). 

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